Heartbeat Records here collects and repackages a wealth of material from Jamaica's legendary Studio One.
Heartbeat Records here collects and repackages a wealth of material from Jamaica's legendary Studio One. The pioneering reggae outpost was commandeered for four-plus decades by Clement S. "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, the late producer whose influence in the reggae world is hard to overstate. For casual-to-moderate reggae fans, the crown jewel here will be "One Love at Studio One," a two-disc, 40-track distillation of the Wailers' earliest recordings that finds the musically embryonic Bob Marley, his voice all adolescent crackling and appealing youthfulness, smartly locating his footing in the style that would make him an international legend.
Much of the material here came out on an earlier Heartbeat compilation, but the spiffy remastering job given to it -- and all these sets, actually -- is worth the price of admission, particularly for how it amps up the bass for full rhythmic juice. The Marley stuff is part revelatory and part curiosity, particularly when the world's most famous Rastafarian sings devout Christian songs like "Sinner Man," "Amen" and "This Train." But the deeper cuts in the "hits" sets are more effective in arguing for Dodd's most preternatural gift: scouting out sweet, earthen melodies and voices. Tracks like John Holt's "A Love I Can Feel," Michigan and Smiley's "Rub a Dub Style" and the Cables' "What Kind of World" casually and smartly illustrate how Dodd carved out his own gritty, dusty sounds while directing his artists to find theirs. -- Jeff Vrabel